Ex-soldier who fled with puma turns himself over to police

WARSAW (AFP) – A former Polish soldier who fled into a forest with his pet puma to avoid handing it over to a zoo, gave himself up to police on Sunday after a three-day manhunt. About 200 officers were deployed to track down the former Afghan war veteran and the big cat.

The former soldier “Kamil Stanek voluntarily turned himself over to police in Zawiercie and was later released”, the police in the southern Polish city said on their Facebook page. The puma was transferred to the care of a zoo following the drama.

“We’re pleased to report that (the puma called) Nubia is surrounded by the professional care of employees at the zoo in Chorzow,” the police said.

Keeping such dangerous animals is banned in Poland, and the man had been ordered by a court to turn the animal over to a zoo.

Zoo officials said people should be aware that big cats were not pets. “It’s not a cuddly toy. It’s one of the most dangerous animals in the world and it could be a real threat to people’s lives,” said Head of the Poznan zoo in western Poland Ewa Zgrabczynska.

Zoo workers went to Stanek’s house in southern Poland last Friday but were met with a hostile response.

The army veteran threatened them with a knife before fleeing with the puma on a leash, according to local media reports. Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper said the man had bought the animal six years ago in the Czech Republic and had been raising it at his home. Stanek’s bid to keep Nubia had won support in some quarters.

“Love for the animal and a heartless court decision forced him to flee. He is hiding in the forest,” Mayor of the southern town of Myslowice Dariusz Wojtowicz said on Facebook. “Maybe someone could take a more humane look at this case,” he said, posting images of the man he identified as Kamil S and the puma.